The causes of a problem cannot total more than 100%


There is a lot of blame going around the world these days.   I think it would be helpful if people blaming others for a problem would first define the problem and then assign blame to all the parties involved, with the total blame equalling 100%.     The conflicts in the Middle east come to mind as an area where this might be helpful.     If a car bomb planted by insurgents kills 100 people how do you rationally allocate the responsibility?    I see all the following parties as having at least a measure of responsibility:

The insurgent bombers themselves
The insurgency who helped the bombers
Iraqi govt security forces (for failing to protect)
USA Govt military (for helping to destabilize the region)
Foreign funders of insurgency
Iraq citizens who support insurgency
US Citizens (for funding the inital conflict)

A reasonable list goes on for some time, though I wonder if you could simplify things by grouping political allies and adversaries?    At first this excercise seems somewhat futile, but I think it forces people to address issues that are usually left off the table such as “how much responsibility does an individual have for their direct violent actions?”.       I’d suggest that however you allocate responsibility you cannot rationally say the total is greater than 100%.

My working assumption is that people generally fall into two camps on this – one that says individuals have a lot of control over themselves and therefore bear most of the responsibility for their actions.  The other group suggests people’s actions are best viewed as the product of complicated forces that are usually out of the individual’s control.   These folks look at individual behavior more forgivingly and see societies as responsible for problems far more than individuals.
In the USA, and even internationally I think, individual accountability people tend to be politically conservative while society accountability people tend to be liberal.

2 thoughts on “The causes of a problem cannot total more than 100%

  1. Joe–

    Your list of responsible parties did not include the main group, namely the politicians of both parties that got the U.S. involved in Iraq in the first place. The US military would not otherwise be involved (they only do what they’re told to by the pols) and US citizens would not be funding the Crusade if they had not been sold a bill of goods.

    As for individual accountability people tending to be conservative, what about George W. Bush? He claims to be conservative, but takes no responsibility for his actions.

  2. I agree all those should be listed but I think in a democracy you need to hold *us*, collectively, at least as accountable as our elected reps. Don’t agree with the Bush bash – right or wrong about the war, he’s always taken full responsibility even when it was politically expedient to do otherwise. Like those who criticized Bill Clinton for his policies you are confusing ideological intransigence with insincerity.

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